This weekend we celebrate two uniquely American traditions, both on the same day.
On Sunday we will gather with friends and family to be entertained by the most-watched sports event of the year, Super Bowl LIII.
And what better second tradition to follow than to celebrate what has, almost by default, become a feast above all feasts, National Junk Food Sunday.
While the Super Bowl contestants display their skills, strength, agility and, for the most part, trim bodies on the field, millions of Americans will be consuming food and drink that will likely detract from their athletic skills, strength and agility – and add a few pounds in the process.
Here are several food facts for Super Bowl Sunday:
48 million Americans will order takeout food. What will we be eating? According to the National Chicken Council, 1.3 billion chicken wings will be devoured. That’s the equivalent of four wings for every man, woman and child in the United States. As for beverages, Americans will spend more than $1.3 billion on a combination of mass-market and craft beers and over $500 million on wine.
As I have for the past few years in this column, I thought of the rivalry on the gridiron and began transposing it to the bars and living rooms across the locales of the Super Bowl opponents. Does East Coast historical experience prove to be an advantage over the perceived youthful social fabric of the West Coast?
First, the gridiron statistics:
On the field: The New England Patriots are appearing in their 11th Super Bowl (most of any team), including each of the last three, and five wins (second most).
The Rams franchise seems like America’s itinerant team. Founded in 1936 in Cleveland, it has moved three times; first to Los Angeles, then to St. Louis in 1995 (winning the 2000 Super Bowl) and finally returning to Los Angeles in 2016. They will be appearing in their fourth Super Bowl.
Experience favors the Patriots, while the Rams have youth on their side. The Patriots are legendary for finding their opponent’s weaknesses and exploiting them. The Rams are a well-balanced team, with few apparent weaknesses.
Food. Each region has its eclectic foods. Which is superior? Centuries-old New England Clam Chowder or a 21st century Los Angeles New Wave dish of Sea Urchin with Oxtail and Congee? Boston baked beans or a Hispanic-inspired Chorizo Breakfast Burrito? A Margarita pizza from Boston’s North End or a smoked salmon with caviar and chives pizza from Spago’s?
The verdict? It’s the 21st, not 19th, century; I give the nod to the vibrancy and youthfulness of Los Angeles over the ageless experience of refined New England dishes.
Wine. Both cities have reputations as wastelands for fine wine. The consensus is that it is too cool in New England, too hot in Southern California.
Massachusetts’ Westport Rivery produces a worthy sparkling wine and Rhode Island’s Sakonnett Vineyards offers a quaffable Cock of the Walk Red.
A pleasant surprise on the southern West Coast: the Temecula Valley wine region. Warm days, cool nights and a constant Pacific mist make for an unsung region with great potential. So, too, with the Rams’ upstart defensive line, led by Aaron Donald, which may be the surprise component to defuse the Patriots’ precision offense. Look for the hard-to-find Bordeaux blends from Bailly, Callaway, Churon, Doffo and Leoness wineries.
The verdict? Kudos to the Temecula Valley for its combination of balance and exuberance. Can this be a catalyst for a Super Bowl victory?
Beer. With the proliferation of small-batch craft beers across the nation, consumers have their favorite local breweries; more power to the people. But please don’t offer me your brother-in-law’s kitchen-counter home brew/ You can have it all to yourself.
The verdict? To each his (or her) own.
Super (Snack) Bowl Sunday: nirvana for football enthusiasts and junk food aficionados alike. Whichever camp you fall into, just kick back and enjoy the game and the camaraderie.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.